The best fresh fruit on sale in June.
The warmth and freshness of June brings out the best in our homegrown soft fruit. This is the time to expect an abundance of berries and to take advantage of all the myriad ways of using them. Elsewhere, in the warmer parts of Europe, the delightful summer profusion is unstoppable. Setting the scene are fresh seasons of grapes, peaches, nectarines, apricots and cherries, all of which will become more sumptuous during the month. Then we have the best of the autumnal opulence of the southern hemisphere with citrus, avocados, persimmons, apples and pear; and the best mangoes of the year from India and Pakistan: so much richness and choice!
Although many apples are still from the 2020 European harvest season, there is a strong presence of new season fruit from South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile. Quality should be excellent as supermarkets will switch from European to southern hemisphere as quality and stock dictates. Particularly look out for Smitten and Envy from New Zealand: their country of origin and very good examples of the varieties.
Now is the time for fresh southern Spanish apricots as June unfolds and the best mid-season varieties become available. The harvest gradually moves north and, by July, will reach France with some wonderful fruit available. As ever with stone fruit, great eating quality is as much to do with correct harvesting and handling as variety, so a lot depends on the skill of retailers and their growers: here’s hoping for a wonderful season!
Hass avocados are now primarily from Peru with good supply from South Africa (also from Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe). Quality should be very good with the peak of the season, but for something a little different, I always buy the green-skin Fuerte when it’s available, usually from South Africa (often in Morrisons Wonky brand, and in Tesco, Waitrose and independent stores).
By June, most fresh blackberries are from UK, but Portugal and Spain act as a back-up. Big, sweet Driscoll Victoria and Midnight varieties are most popular, but the more tangy traditional varieties are used in the ‘value’ packs in many supermarkets.
Blueberries are fantastic in June: great quality, excellent varieties and good values. Morocco, Portugal and Spain are the main sources at the start of June, with early UK production beginning shortly afterward. Much of the fruit is of newer, sweeter varieties such as Ania, Eureka, Celeste, Ventura, etc, some being very sweet such as Kirra. As with blackberries and raspberries, ‘value’ packs often contain the more traditional, some would say more flavoursome, varieties. Although quality should be at its peak, things do go wrong in the supply chain with such issues as over-maturity or over-long storage, so it is always worth checking the berries for signs of softness, wrinkling or mould: nothing worse than a soft or squishy blueberry!
Cherries get better as June and the Spanish season progress, with early varieties having been sold and the sweeter, fleshier main-stream varieties becoming available. Prices are also good. Towards the end of June, depending on the year, the long-anticipated British season starts. Possibly there will be a delay in 2021 due to the cool weather, but, whatever, these are an absolute highlight of our summer fruit.
Also in June, and worth mentioning separately, is the stalkless Picota cherry from Jerte Valley in Spain which will start to appear. These are always treated as a ‘value’ cherry by supermarkets in UK: great for consumers as they become a cheap and tasty treat!
June is not a month synonymous with lavish quantities of figs. Early Spanish Colar is often available, but many supermarkets persist with southern hemisphere figs, such as Peruvian Toro Sentado. Essentially, an abundance of cheap figs will not take place until later in the summer: Turkish Bursa, for example, are best in late August- September.
June is greeted by most grape suppliers with some relief, as the long barren period since the last harvest in the southern hemisphere is broken. By now, there is fresh fruit from Brazil, Mexico and Egypt as new seasons start. For UK consumers, this mainly means Egypt, though there have been some tasty Candy Hearts available from Brazil (as well as the long availability of flavour-packed Vitoria).
The first grapes from Egypt are early green grapes such as Early Sweet and Prime, swiftly followed by the seedless red Starlight. These will be very different from the rather insipid tail-end Indian Thompson and Chilean Crimson, as they will be less sweet, and a distinct acidity will be present, which, of course will be very welcome to many consumers looking for something tantalising from their grapes. Other varieties will gradually start to appear from Egypt, particularly now that their grape industry has been expanding the range of varieties available: look out, for example, for flavoursome Sable to come back onto shelves soon.
Southern hemisphere grapes should fade away completely, and, towards the end of June, expect to see more early grapes from Morocco, Spain and Italy.
Very late Pink grapefruit from USA (Florida Pink) and White Marsh Seedless from Israel are often still on sale in early June, but expect a quick and wholesale change to fresh South African fruit. The main red variety, Star Ruby, is often on sale by late May, with pink and white varieties arriving in short order. There will be quite a fresh tanginess and vibrancy in eating quality compared to the old, stored northern hemisphere stocks.
All change for kiwifruit: with yellow varieties switching to southern hemisphere supply (New Zealand, South Africa and Chile) in May, it is now the turn of the green Hayward kiwifruit as supply from Italy and Greece is all but over. It takes a dedicated consumer to tell the difference between the various sources, particularly with Hayward, but rest assured that quality will be excellent.
The sweeter yellow kiwifruit is mainly the New Zealand, Sungold: a very attractive fruit, with juice, sweetness, a slight acid tang and a lovely flavour. Skelton from South Africa and Jintao from Chile are the alternatives which tend to have slightly more acidity.
LOQUAT (MEDLAR) Update:
Loquats are grown in Mediterranean countries and rarely exported in any volume due to their extreme susceptibility to bruise. They are available in some independent grocery stores in June and are worth trying for their unique flavour.
Spanish Verna, a thick-skinned, slightly knobbly fruit, dominates on the lemon market in early June, but will shortly be replaced by the juicier South African Eureka.
The Mauritius variety of lychee from Mexico in available in most large supermarkets throughout June: a supremely flavoursome fruit.
Nadorcott and Tangold from Spain and Morocco are on their last legs and should really be passed-by for the new season clementines from South Africa. These are principally early Oronules and Clemenluz, among others, but will soon be replaced by the mid-season Clemenules: all are fresh and sweet compared to the flat flavour of the old Mediterranean fruit. Also look out for the delicious Nova, usually sold as a tangerine on account of its slightly tough peel, but the tastiest of them all.
As Indian Alphonse comes to an end, the sumptuous Kesar continues to be the best tasting mango available (mostly in independent South Asian stores, occasionally in supermarkets such as Morrisons or Waitrose). The Pakistani Honey mango (cv. Sindhri) will start to appear, and although it isn’t quite at the peak of sweetness and flavour when it first arrives, it will become the best option over the later part of June.
In M&S, Costco and various independent stores, it may be possible to find Ataulfo from Mexico. This is a wonderful smooth and sweet variety which hasn’t really penetrated the UK market until recent seasons. It can be a bit disappointing in May, but will improve in June.
Of sea-freight varieties, there have been some good examples of West African and Caribbean Kent and Keitt on sale as they reach mid to late season: sweet and juicy, though rarely flavoursome. The cheapest loose fruit can suffer from poor ripening, so perhaps more reliable are the ‘ripe and ready’ packs from the main retailers. I find it annoying, though, to often have one ripening well and the other never quite making it to good eating quality.
Melons in June are all from Spain or Italy and quality and choice should be excellent. The most reliably sweet types tend to be Piel de Sapo and Ivory Gaya melon (aka Sweet Snowball in Tesco; Matice in Waitrose), with watermelon being unlikely to disappoint.
We are at the end of the European orange season, but the late season Valencia Late (along with variants Midknight, Barberina and Delta) will continue on sale for many more weeks while we await fresh Navels from South Africa. The versatility of the Valencia Late is excellent: good eating and excellent juicing, and the abundance of supply from Spain, Morocco and Egypt should make them good value as well.
PEACH & NECTARINE Update:
Late June-early July is a great time for Spanish peaches and nectarines. The season is long because of the large difference in latitude north from southern Spain, but we are now entering the peak of season from the south with good quality and decent prices.
Eating quality will only improve as the summer months unfold.
Larger supermarkets, with Tesco, Waitrose and M&S being perhaps the more enthusiastic, continue with a good range of southern hemisphere pears in June. Look out for Packham’s Triumph, Forelle, Comice, Green Williams (Williams’ Bon Chrétien), Abaté Fétèl and Taylor’s Gold from New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, all with good eating quality attributes.
Conference is still the most common variety on sale, flying the flag for European pears. It stores very well, so will last until the fresh harvest in September, though tends to have a shorter shelf-life in the latter months once out of store.
South African Triumph persimmons are to be found in most supermarkets: a lovely sweet and flavoursome fruit. They can be eaten soft or hard, but the flavour flows more with softness, even jelliness.
Physalis is possibly one of the most flavour-packed and vibrant fruit regularly on sale in supermarkets (though not many supermarkets, except Sainsbury’s). It is usually from Columbia and is wonderful when mixed with other berries to boost the impact.
Early June is when old season Angelino is replaced with new season Spanish plums. Supermarkets still have Angelino plums from the old Chilean season, but there is absolutely no need to buy them as June progresses, as there is a plentiful choice from the fresh new varieties. The very first varieties will tend to be a little sharp and light in sweetness, and some may not even ripen properly (poor quality management), but the situation will change rapidly. Look out for Black Splendor in ripen-at-home punnets, an early variety with beetroot-red flesh, which is juicy and sweet with a distinct acid tang. The choice for premium packs will include such varieties as Suplum41, Metis Oxy Solar and Sweet Moment, depending on the supermarket: all with good eating qualities.
Similar to blackberries, most raspberries on sale in June come from UK farms, with back-up from Portugal and Spain. This is an excellent time for all berry fruit, and raspberries are no exception. Quality is wonderful, prices are good and choice is widespread, with most being of new varieties which have been bred for sweetness or firmness, or both.
More tangy traditional varieties such as Glen Lyon may be used in the ‘value’ packs, but names such as Malling Bella, Driscoll Maravilla and Berry Gem will be most visible. Worth noting is Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference raspberry which tends to use Tulameen in the UK season: a lovely balanced variety, slightly soft, but with great depth of flavour.
Satsumas are available through-out June from South Africa and Peru. These are varieties Mihowase and Okitsu (also some Owari), respectively, and are thoroughly enjoyable easy-peeling fruit: tangy, juicy, soft and sweet.
For most people, strawberries in the garden come into fruit in June, which gives an indication of their natural peak season in much of the UK. This is rendered rather irrelevant due to protected cropping and growing techniques, but I often wonder if strawberries actually taste best in June! However, the main point is that now is the time to buy and eat copious amounts of British strawberries. In terms of varieties, we are getting into a better position as the seasons roll by. After many years of mediocre fruit of zero-to-limited sweetness and indiscernible flavour, today’s varieties are at least offering something of both. The best varieties include Malling Centenary and the Driscoll range of varieties (Lusa, Elizabeth, etc), as well as Sweet Eve and Eve’s Delight. They may not be perfect, but there is plenty to enjoy.
©Good Fruit Guide 2021. Recommendations on fruit varieties and types with the very best taste are personal to the editor of Good Fruit Guide, and do not attempt to be exhaustive or supported by verifiable consumer research. The highlighting of fruit with the very best taste in the opinion of the editor is not intended as a judgement on the taste of varieties and types of fruit not mentioned.